Before Mike Posner graduated from Duke University in May with a 3.6 GPA and a degree in sociology, he had already locked in something many college seniors covet: a job. Great news, especially in this roiling economy. But some might not consider Posner's real-world job-as a singer/songwriter/producer with J/RCA-a smart move given the music industry's own ups and downs.
Posner (pronounced "Pose-ner"), however, says he always knew music was going to be a part of his life. "It was important to finish college since people in my family sacrificed a lot for me," he says backstage before a recent gig at Los Angeles' Key Club. "And I'm proud of that. While I didn't know if I would end up writing, producing or sitting behind a desk, I knew I'd end up doing something with music. Now it's go time."
Video Below: "Cooler Than Me" live in Los Angeles at the Key Club on June 15, 2010.
And it definitely is for Posner. His debut single, "Cooler Than Me," is burning up the charts after vaulting into the top 10 this week on the Billboard Hot 100. Reminiscent of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," Posner's "Cooler" is about a girl he declines to name and was recorded in his dorm room on a $200 mic.
Video Below: Mike Posner chats with Billboard.com
The infectious mash-up of R&B, hip-hop and electro-pop-paired with Posner's scratchy tenor-provides a preview of his yet-untitled debut album, slated for release in August. The only details Posner would share about the album is that he's working with J/RCA president of A&R Peter Edge, that Benny Blanco (Dr. Luke, Katy Perry), is among the producers onboard and that he makes "authentic" pop music.
"A lot of people are embarrassed to say they like pop music," he says, "but I like a lot of it. I go everywhere pop artists go but without losing my authenticity. And I can safely say my album sounds like nothing else out right now. There are songs that make me cry and others that make me jump up and down. I'm just trying, hopefully, to make people feel a fraction of what I feel."
Video Below: Mike Posner performing "Drug Dealer Girl" live in L.A., June 15, 2010.
Posner's authenticity was bred during his childhood in Southfield, Mich., where he listened to Sarah Brightman and Ricky Nelson (among his mom's faves) and Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye (his dad's preferences). Producing beats in middle school, Posner began listening to Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin and OutKast in high school. Between internships at hip-hop WHTD Detroit and hip-hop indie label Definitive Jux, college student Posner was shopping beats and songs to labels and getting rejected. He decided then to start singing his own songs.
After finding a loophole in the iTunesU software, which allows professors to post their lectures for free download, Posner uploaded his mixtape, "A Matter of Time." Featuring a reworking of Beyoncé's "Halo" and a guest stint by Posner's frequent collaborator and Kanye West G.O.O.D. Music rapper Big Sean, the mixtape rose to No. 1 on iTunesU in March 2009-and sparked major-label interest. "I found myself on the other side of the desk from [Interscope Geffen A&M Records chairman] Jimmy Iovine, [RCA/Jive Label Group chairman/CEO] Barry Weiss and Jay-Z," Posner recalls. He signed with J after his junior year.
Posner self-released a second free mixtape, "One Foot Out the Door"-with 3OH!3, Kid Cudi and others-through iTunesU last October. And an EP featuring "Cooler Than Me" is available on iTunes. Posner has since performed on "Last Call With Carson Daly," on a club tour with Big Sean and at the South by Southwest and Bamboozle music festivals. Next up is the Vans Warped tour, which kicked off June 24 in San Diego.
Acknowledging he's just getting started, Posner is confident he'll go the distance as long as his authenticity remains intact. "That's the most important word in my life," he says. "Once I lose authenticity, I've lost everything. I'll quit."